Gaslighting – the dictionary meaning defines the term as psychologically manipulating a person over an extended period of time that is downrightly deceitful. It is quite interesting to learn that “gaslighting” is the word of 2022, says Merriam-Webster dictionary. What does this mean? That there has been a 1740% jump in people searching for the term “gaslighting” on the Merriam-Webster dictionary this year compared to the prior year. This probably is a bigger reveal as more people are perpetually lying to get what they want – in a dark way. Because when someone gaslights the other, they are throwing falsehoods at you constantly, to the extent that the other may question their sanity, reality, confidence and sense of judgment.
Psychologists refer to this type of manipulation as a situation where a group or an individual manipulates someone to get them to question their own perception, memory and reality. They see this as extreme behavior that is always dangerous.
What does it feel like when someone gaslights?
· Constantly feeling responsible when something goes wrong
· Doubting oneself frequently
· Difficulty in trusting others
· Always feeling the need to apologize
· Perpetually feeling misunderstood
· Feeling the need to justify your views with abundant facts
· Feeling the need to rationalize other’s wrong behavior
· Sensing something is not right but not being able to spot it
Causes of Gaslighting behavior
Why do people gaslight? The answer is power dynamics. When the goal is to weaken resistance, appear clean, break spirits, destroy peace of mind, and create chaos, people tend to become gaslighters. It is a persistent behavioral pattern that questions your self-esteem and slowly erodes your confidence.
3 reasons why a gaslighter behaves as they do:
· To gain more control and power over another person
· Being raised by a parent who was a gaslighter, who adopted this as a survival mechanism.
· Certain mental health issues such as narcissistic personality disorder lend themselves to gaslighting as the illness tends to distort a person’s view of others, and manipulating becomes their only resort to escape their own faults.
There are certain sounds to gaslighting behavior. Here are some of those sounds:
1. You’re being dramatic
2. You are being so emotional
3. You’re over sensitive
4. You’re making things up
5. Do you know you’re sounding insane right now?
6. You’re blowing things out of proportion
7. Why do you always have to make a big deal of nothing?
8. Nothing that you say ever makes sense; do you even hear you?
If you notice the pattern, you will find that most of these statements start with “You are….” The gaslighter is a perpetrator who deftly spots inefficiencies in another person and abuses them psychologically.
Effects of Gaslighting
A person who is constantly being gaslighted by another slowly loses their sense of judgment. As a result, the chances of being misunderstood by other people are higher, which gradually erodes their self-esteem. As a result, they start to believe that nobody trusts or supports them. That keeps them isolated from their social circles, be it family, friends or work, and gives the gaslighter gain more control over them.
Gaslighting at Work
Working for toxic bosses takes away more than it rewards. However, there’s a difference between a manager who micromanages and someone who gaslights you. The latter is usually out to sabotage your career. How often have you been made to feel that you do not have a recollection of an event in a recently concluded work meeting? Or that you had confirmed a meeting with co-workers post lunch when you knew you had a medical appointment at that hour? Chances are that you are a victim of gaslighting.
While it is easy to spot difficult bosses because they will scream, bully, humiliate and abuse publicly, the subtle and insidious nature of gaslighting makes it more covert. Gaslighters know how to keep it simple and plane while undermining someone’s sense of reality. It is often a conflict of words between two parties that makes it difficult to escalate to higher levels. At work, it often takes the form of events where gaslighters invalidate what you say.
5 signs of gaslighting at work:
· You’re constantly questioned on your perception, which raises self-doubt issues significantly
· You’re being told repeatedly that you’re making mistakes while you are not
· You’re counted out of certain important meetings and sessions on purpose
· Appreciate you in private but critically evaluate you in public
· Slowly, other people start to notice the way you are treated by the gaslighter.
How to deal with Gaslighting?
1. Recognizing that someone is gaslighting you is the first step. Interrogate your experience. Since it is a manipulative tactic and they will accuse you of making things up, make sure it is not loose communication but a series of events to sow self-doubt and confusion in your mind.
2. Document discussions either on paper or in print. Take notes while you interact with your boss or peer group during meetings or sessions. Circulate emails or messages copying other people present in the event to keep a record of what transpired during these conversations.
3. Stand up for what you believe in – Stay firm to your feelings. Own your perception and ensure you speak up when confronted.
4. Seek support from your network – A strong network of friends and colleagues will surround you during emotionally draining situations. Reach out to them when you experience gaslighting to protect your mental health and reduce stress and anxiety.
5. Escalate cautiously – Since gaslighters are often covertly inciting feelings of worthlessness, they leave no trace or record of how they behave. To escalate their behaviors, understand the organizational ecosystem and then reach out to HR with meticulous records.
6. Minimize contact with the gaslighter to block him. Limit your interactions to need-based work assignments. Avoid coffee, lunches and other social events with the gaslighter. That will allow you to network with other groups and is a great way to neutralize the impact of a toxic boss.
Things to say when someone is gaslighting you?
If you know of someone who’s experienced gaslighting at work or in personal relationships, here are a few things that will help them deal with it better.
· My feelings are valid, and I do not appreciate you telling me how I have been feeling
· I know what I’m talking about
· If this is how I feel, I must be feeling right
· Please check the next time you minimize my feelings. That may hamper the output of our work deliverables.
· I understand this is best for me
· I find it difficult to keep discussing this
· I’ve heard you, and although I strongly disagree, I think we both may need some space and thinking to do
Gaslighting and Mental Health – Help heal
Mental health experts emphasize developing ways to deal with gaslighting. The constant barrage of abuses often leads to severe emotional distress. People who are more vulnerable to gaslighting suffer from several mental health issues, such as trauma, low self-esteem or depression.
If you are experiencing these issues or know of someone, refer them to mental health experts. Therapists will help you recognize unhealthy and manipulative behaviors. They can coach you on how to resist psychological manipulation. At Nirvaan, you can get connected to certified online psychologists and counselors committed to reducing your discomfort and becoming familiar with your feelings and teaching you ways to validate them. Our therapeutic style is centered around compassion and recognition, which sets us apart from our contemporaries.
Take your time to decide and while you do, here are calming notes that will help you decide better - https://www.nirvaan.org.in/music